I believe the Holy Spirit can make you feel guilty for an actual sin while the enemies of God can make you feel guilty for an alleged sin that isn't one or keep you feel guilty for a sin you repented from. What are ways to discern if a feeling of guilt is from the Holy Spirit or from the enemy? Do any Catholic or Orthodox saints or Pentecostals provide insight on how to discern?

  • This idea of Godly sorrow can mean to actually recognize and feel the real loss. The waste. The suffering. And that a gracious God forgives completely. How could anyone want to continue under those circumstances? “Life is so hard that the only reasonable response from us is compassion.” And living for Christ. Great question well said. God bless you
    – Al Brown
    Sep 3, 2021 at 13:36
  • @AlBrown Does that mean if I keep falling into the (possible) sin I didn't truly/fully repent? And what if I wish to die before commiting any grave sin again, in the knowledge I would fall into it again? God bless you! Sep 3, 2021 at 13:40
  • None of us repents perfectly for anything. None of us will repent even a little.. for every single sin. None of us will stop sinning completely while on this earth. Sometimes I think medication is the worst thing ever happened to Christianity. Otherwise guaranteed processes can be messed up, by especially statins for example.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 3, 2021 at 13:47
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    @AlBrown Thank you. Did you pray yesterday? I had a dream last night that may or may not have shown a bit insight. Sep 4, 2021 at 11:56
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    @AlBrown From my experience, I think I can confirm what you are telling, God may answer a prayer before it is prayed to the end. God knows what we are about to pray, after all. In time of need, God can help immediately. I also know of another example by another person who began to pray and was instantly helped. Praise be God! Sep 5, 2021 at 6:05

4 Answers 4


I've once heard a very nice sermon on this (can't remember which Church it was, but I believe Catholic), in a comparison with Judas and Peter. Both Judas and Peter betray Christ (Luke 22). Further more, both are sorry! Remember, Judas returns the money (Matthew 27).

But Judas' sorrow, is an earthly one, that leaves us in a state of guilt, shame and blame. The worldly sorrow brings despair and leaves us in despair. However, it was not so with Peter, Peter also in a sort of earthly sorrow, doesn't believe the Lord can forgive him, even after he sees him resurrected! But Peter accepts forgiveness, he embraces Jesus' offering of a new, healed life, in turning away from sin and towards God, by the grace of God!

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs. John 21:15 ”

Earthly sorrow brings despair and leaves us there, in our sins, with no hope. Godly sorrow accepts the resurrected Christ into our lives, with the faith and confidence of us trying to follow Christ again! Despair without hope, is the work of the anti-Christ. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

  • Alright, but Judas actually sinned, he betrayed the Lord and showed an earthly sorrow without turning to the Lord for forgiveness. However, if you don't exactly know whether something is a sin, the Holy Spirit may convict you if it's an actual sin, or you may wrongly feel guilty due to a lie by the enemy if it's no sin, right? I think I always turn to God in repentance when I feel guilty of a possible sin, but how do I discern? Sep 2, 2021 at 11:21

I am surprised no one has brought up 2 Corinthians 7:9-11; I believe Paul gives you the answer there.

9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 11 For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. (NASB)

Godly sorrow, or to use your term, righteous guilt, produces zealous repentance. It goes without saying that to repent you have to have sinned. If you haven't sinned, there's no need of guilt or repentance.

The sorrow of the world, or to use your term, false guilt, produces death. Instead of indignation, it promotes resignation; instead of fear, arrogance, instead of longing for the Lord, repulsion at His presence, instead of zeal, lethargy, instead of punishment of wrong, acceptance of evil.

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    Praise be God! Can I understand it hence as that my feelings of guilt due to certain possible sins are probably from the Holy Spirit, and that the acts are really sins? Sep 2, 2021 at 15:26
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    @LoveForChrist That is a question you will have to sort out for yourself with an open Bible and a prayerful heart. Sep 2, 2021 at 15:28
  • @LoveForChrist Caleb is right, such issues need be discussed better to a pastor/priest/chaplain. I hope my response shed some hope! God bless!
    – Dan
    Sep 5, 2021 at 19:10
  • @Dan Many present-day priests are modernists who believe not many things are sin. I'd need to find a priest (or another Christian) with spiritual gifts. God bless you! Sep 6, 2021 at 5:43

Good question. I think one common error we make as new Christians is assuming that discerning good from evil is as simple as waiting for a feeling of conviction from the Spirit. The Bible does not say this - in Scripture, the Spirit gives us a new heart with new desires, but learning to discern good from evil takes time. Our feelings can mislead us - consider my comments on conscience below.

  • Guilt that is from the enemy focuser your attention on yourself rather than Christ - how messed up you are and that you will never change.

  • Godly sorrow focuses our attention on Christ and His atoning work on the cross and His power to transform us into a new creation. We trust that He will cleanse us of all sin (1 John 1:9) and give us strength by His Spirit to overcome. It affirms that we are dearly loved in Christ and that His love compels us to pursue righteousness in full confidence that if we persevere we will overcome in time, for we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Maturity Takes Time

The Bible is clear that in order to discern good from evil we must be mature in our faith and that this type of maturity takes time to develop. Our hearts can deceive us - our emotions are unstable. We must learn over years of walking with Christ and studying His Word to discern good from evil - to compare our desires against God's Word and to know whether they are for good or ill. I do not think this type of wisdom is cheap or fast - it requires time and discipline to renew our minds and grow in maturity.

Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Hebrews 5:14 - But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


Our conscience can be wrong - it can be misinformed. It can cause us to feel guilty when we have done nothing wrong and it can cause us to feel innocent when we are guilty of sin. Consider this passage from 1 John - our heart’s can condemn us - make us feel guilty and condemned - even when we should not feel that way.

I John 3:19-22 - This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts , and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

Likewise, our conscience can be seared so that we no longer feel guilty when we do evil things.

I Timothy 4:2 - Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

I think the following article does a good job discussing the conscience. Our conscience must be informed by God's Word and is not always correct. Mature Christians are those whose conscience and mind have learned through constant discipline and submission to God's Spirit to discern good from evil. Our conscience may never be perfect this side of Heaven, which is why we need to know God's Word and seek godly council.

Hebrews 5:14 - But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


  • But by mortal sin one falls from grace. A mortal sin is a grave sin whose gravity you're aware of and decide to commit it anyway freely. Now you may say if I ain't aware of its sinfulness I don't commit a mortal sin. But I don't want to sin at all, let alone gravely. If I convict myself of a grave sin, aren't there any more indicators if it actually is a grave sin? Also, is it possible God may not want to tell me because it actually may be a grave sin and if I would fall again into it because of my weakness I could sin mortally? Sep 2, 2021 at 13:03
  • Personally, I find that it is easier to obey Christ when I focus on Him rather than the severity or nature of a specific sin I may have committed. In soccer it is easiest to score if your eyes are on the open net rather than the goal keeper. I look at Christ as the open net and don't focus on sin.
    – Zanarkand
    Sep 2, 2021 at 13:32
  • If the player focuses on the net only, the goalkeeper may prevent a goal. The transition between knowledge and unknowledge of an act's sinfulness seems fluid. One night I dreamt that I had obviously died and prepared for my particular judgement. I realized that it was now to be decided whether I would be saved or...you know (even though a person in the dream said I don't need to have fear of hell). I handed myself fully over to Christ but I woke up before the judgement. May the fear of hell be from the Holy Spirit or is it rather an unnecessary fear that isn't from the Holy Spirit? Sep 2, 2021 at 13:52
  • My personal opinion is that it wiser to allow God's Word to shape our thoughts and feelings about who God is and what He wants us to think and feel, rather than trying to figure out if God is trying to communicate with us through dreams and feelings. I've had many dreams that could be interpreted as from God, but I don't stress over what they may or may not mean.
    – Zanarkand
    Sep 2, 2021 at 16:10
  • I sometimes (rarely) have extraordinary dreams that have clearly different characteristics from "normal" dreams, e.g. they start immediately after falling asleep (normally you'd first be in non-REM-sleep and have dreams at the end of the night (the ones you remember)), the dreams can be remembered very easily, they're more vivid (though not as much as to confuse them with waking life) and I think they're in "real time" compared to the waking world. I believe they're supernatural. The dream above was one of them, but if that dream person said I don't have to fear hell, it's actually calming. Sep 2, 2021 at 16:39

[I feel that this is slightly hastily written, but it looks basically sound right now…]

This answer probably violates some rules about what is acceptable as an answer on this site, but. . .

The Bible tells us that we have the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (There are arguments that try to say that this is not. . . what it says, but I consider them all to be {obviously bad arguments unless one has a barrow to push}.)

The answer, then, is that you do not need anything beyond careful consideration to work out right and wrong. Conversely, “the heart is corrupt and desperately wicked” [paraphrasing some different verses], so it is helpful to heed what the Bible says about moral questions. (Of course, in real life there are ethical dilemmas and situations in which the wrong is already a past event, and so on. . . but I would not expect the Bible to be able to resolve such questions. Discuss them with an academic type.)

From the point of view of Christianity itself. . . two core difficulties for fallen human beings are:

  • acknowledging one’s guilt and
  • accepting that one is perfectly forgiven.
  • Certain acts aren't quite precisely described in the Bible whether they are sins or not, and just because the Bible doesn't mention them or not exactly I think one shouldn't automatically assume these aren't sins. Your answer implies that my feeling of guilt may result from my knowledge of Good and Evil but I don't know if you're entirely right about this. In the past I did or said things I believed were good (or not bad) but in fact it was sin. Sep 2, 2021 at 18:05
  • Although it is possible for a Godly person to expressly refuse to repent from one particular sin (2 Sam 12: 1-7a), Christian salvation does not depend on continuously confessing each and every sin, nor [falsely] “repenting” from sins that one actually already hates. Confessing sin is a “mass noun”; it is about allowing that one is a sinner. Jesus died to deliver you from, not only your actual guilt, but also your feelings of guilt. Conceivably the Holy Spirit is telling you to do something about the situation. The former stands regardless.
    – Carsogrin
    Sep 3, 2021 at 18:25
  • Tbh I don't quite understand why certain sins are sins (if they are), but if they insult God I don't wanna do them. By confessing each sin in a valid sacrament of Penance, not just mortal sins, we can hope to shorten our time in purgatory in the afterlife, can't we? Sep 4, 2021 at 5:26

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